At least 120 people, including 28 children, were returned to Libya by the coast guard on Wednesday night. The UN migration agency IOM repeated that Libya is not a safe country for return.
The UN migration agency (IOM) said Thursday that a boat carrying more than 120 migrants was stopped in the Mediterranean on Wednesday night and the migrants returned to Libya. Safa Msehli, an IOM spokesperson, said 126 migrants from the vessel were taken to detention centers inside Libya.
"We reiterate that Libya is not a port of safety," the IOM tweeted.
In recent years, the European Union and EU countries have supported Libya's coast guard to try to stop migrant crossings.
But the IOM and rights organizations say migrants who are brought back by Libyan authorities are regularly detained in centers where they are subjected to abuse and extortion.
True number of deaths in Central Mediterranean unknown
At least 20,000 people have died trying to cross the Central Mediterranean since 2014, according to the IOM.
A report by the IOM's Missing Migrants project on Friday said that this year, 729 deaths had been confirmed on the route. The number does not include at least 15 so-called "invisible shipwrecks" – incidents that cannot be verified because boats are not located and there is insufficient information.
Msehli estimated that there have been at least 600 unrecorded drownings across all migrant routes in the Mediterranean this year.
Drowned children were Egyptian
A Libyan health official tweeted that three of the four bodies retrieved from the Mediterranean by Libyan rescue workers on Wednesday were of Egyptian children, aged between 5 years and 8 years, AP reported.
Amin Al-Hashemi, a spokesperson with the Libyan health ministry, said the children had drowned. Their parents‘ fate remained unknown, he said.